ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A brilliantly narrated account by George A. Bowley, “A Son of the Empire”, offers a frank delivery filled with courage and excellent good humor, and is a story that many will relate to who were like George in a similar situation. The book offers the reader a first hand view of what it would have been like, to be torn away from familar surroundings and all that he knew and felt comfortable with.
Like so many children during WWII in Great Britain, many were seconded to Australia and New Zealand and various other British colonies. For George the destination was Rhodesia, where he grew up into a fine and well-principled young man, who came to love his country of exile – proving a safe haven away from the turmoil and destruction that was raging in Britain and throughout Europe; providing him a brand new life.
(C) Copyright.July 17, 2014.Emerantia Parnall-Gilbert
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY – Curriculum Vita Information
Question: Tell us something about yourself, your educational background, your professional life and personal achievement/wish list yet to be achieved, your other accomplishments if any, literary wise, or anything you’re comfortable parting with. You are in control George 🙂
Answer: I was born in England in the year of the start of the 2nd world war. Grew up from the age of five in an orphanage. Sent by ship to Cape Town- S.Africa and by rail to Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia at the age of 8yrs.
The Fairbridge Home for migrants was an R.A.F pilot training school that was used to train pilots during the war. Our dormitories were Nissan huts on brick plinths encased in corrugated iron- hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter. Mosquitoes were a menace in the rainy season- each bed had a mosquito net and every morning we would squash the bloated insects, that had penetrated the nets and smear our blood on the material, as a sign of victory.The home was set on 2000 acres of bush veld teeming with wild life. There was hardly one of us that didn’t have a pet chameleon, a bat eared fox, a snake or a darling rat with huge innocent eyes- it was a hard life of discipline and freedom. The school holidays were the best of times whether one remained at the home when discipline was relaxed and the children were encouraged to spend the days fishing, hunting and camping out in the bush, or if you were lucky might spend the holidays as guests of the public in their homes in the towns or on farms.
After five years of primary school I achieved nothing more noteworthy than a first class award for elocution in the Rhodesian Eisteddfod and was chosen with others to meet the Queen at the unveiling of the Kingsley Fairbridge Memorial on Christmas Pass outside Umtali.
Life changed abruptly- and for the worst, the year I began high school. Cruel initiations and bullying were the norm for the first year but if one could bear the worst year of one’s life, things could only get better. I survived don’t ask me how, however each year as a senior got better. I always wanted to be a school teacher however the cost of years at the teachers training college was beyond the affordability of the Fairbridge Trust so I was encouraged to become a farm hand instead, so I left school with a G.C.E at the age of sixteen. For the next ten years I was given to farmer after farmer to do with me as he pleased- years of hard slogging for a pittance, years of racism, brutality and deceit. But I shrugged it off and grew stronger for it.
When British sanctions were imposed on Rhodesia after U.D.I. was declared, and a bloody war was in progress. Many of the migrants emigrated to Australia, or moved back to Britain. Many of us stayed as Britain would have had us do, but not a word from her as life worsened. For years after I was married in 1967, I fought my way up. Britain’s sanctions had ruined any chance I had of leasing a tobacco farm so I joined the corporate world instead and between fighting and killing for what I believed was a lost cause, I never-the-less improved my lot and became a Pulp Plant Manager with a Paper Company after having completed a three year course in pulp technology in a the space of eighteen months- with at least six of those months spent in the bush fighting the enemy- I obtained my diploma.
One day in about 1971 I survived an ambush which had a strange effect on me. It was a fear if you like. A fear of dying without knowing who I was. Memories flooded back to me names of my siblings I spent a life with in the orphanage and above all who were my parents?.
The wanting to know became an addiction so I began a search and two years later I met my father for the first time. I met my two sisters too- both of them were strangers to each other and my father. The sad thing is the girls have remained strangers and have no desire at all to meet their father. More than thirty years on I met a brother the eldest of us, I was seventy-two he was seventy- eight. Our story drew the attention of the press- A serialised version of or meeting was programmed on a BBC radio channel.
Sadly one year later my brother died. In recognition of his death and my life as a migrant I was invited to represent the Rhodesian migrants at the apology given by the Prime Minister-Gordon Brown at the Palace of Westminster. There were seventy odd migrants from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. I was the only Rhodesian/Zimbabwean migrant.
BOOK DESCRIPTION: “Son of the Empire”
Until the age of five George Bowley spent his days on the streets of Brighton, but when his mother was imprisoned in 1943, he and his four siblings were sent to an orphanage where they were split up. Five years later George Bowley was selected by the The Fairbridge Society to be included in their mission to relocate disadvantaged children around the Empire. He was sent to what was then known as Rhodesia. Years later George embarked on a search for his lost family that became the subject of a BBC radio documentary. In 2010 he and other victims of the policy of forced child migration received an official apology from the British Government. This is his story.